So What Exactly Is Mid Century Modern?



Midcentury modern is an architectural, product, interior and graphic design that generally describes mid-20th century developments in modern furniture design, architecture and urban development from roughly 1933 to 1965. Mid-Century modern furniture first showed up in the 1950s and ’60s. Midcentury modern was reaffirmed in 1983 by Cara Greenberg in her title of the book, Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s celebrating the style that is now recognized by scholars and museums worldwide as a significant design movement. In the 1984 seminal book Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s (Harmony Books, Crown Publishers, Inc New York). The author Cara Greenberg gave a term to the style of design, furniture, architecture and accessories that had proliferated since World War II. Mid-Century has seen streaks of popularity, yet it had a dedicated and consistent following, like ModCom group of Los Angeles Conservancy. With the extreme accuracy and detail, the Mid-Century’s design has been reintroduced to devoted fans of the AMC cable series and Mad Men.


photo cretit: Per Gunnarsson

Midcentury modern style has been a growing trend, even though most people don’t want to live in a home that looks like a time capsule. Midcentury furniture pieces have been characterized by their clean, simple lines. Wood pieces, that are often made of teak and simply finished to showcase their natural beauty. Mid-Century architecture was frequently employed in residential structures with the goal of bringing modernism into America’s post-war suburbs. Many consider Frank Lloyd Wright’s principle movement of organic architecture combined with Arts and Crafts as an American jumping point for the aesthetic of Mid-Century Modern.
Mid-Century modern collectibles range from furniture and architectural fixtures to accessories like glassware, lamps, clocks and artwork. The prominent designers of Mid-Century modern furniture include: Harry Bertoia, Arne Jacobsen, Charles and Ray Eames, Isamu Noguchi, , George Nelson, Vernor Panton, Eero Saarinen and Hans Wegner Mid-Century Modern is not synonymous with the Art Deco, Art Nouveau, “deco” or any misused 20th-century design terms. Mid-Century Modern furniture also describes more high style, the designer items from the era rather than unclassifiable kitsch from the same period.

Midcentury modern furniture design has reflected the clean, the houses, with curves, polymorphic and geometric shapes replacing any busy or highly ornamental details. A number of chairs crafted during this timeframe were produced of molded plastic perfect for the busy homemaker as they could be easily wiped clean. Boxy upholstered furniture was popular during this era featured very durable fabrics designed for family wear as well.

Multipurpose became a catch phrase, that addressed the needs of modern life, as Greenberg writes in the Mid-Century Modern. This modern furniture stacked, folded and bent, it was re-arrange-able and inter-changeable, it nested and flexed. The chairs were designed to be pressed into service for a dozen different reasons. The tables were nonspecific for writing, eating, or playing cards. Mid-century furniture, especially the pieces designed by icons like Herman Miller, George Nakashima, Charles and Ray Eames, are highly collectible and can be quite pricey. High-end mid-century furniture tops out at around $5,000-$7,000 per piece. Those items are generally signed by their famous designers and are in good condition. There are many who’ve opted for furniture inspired by classic mid century modern furniture. A great place to find such inspirations is


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